THE FUTURE OF WORK FROM HOME

My employer has teased an unveiling of formal “work from home” policies for months now but all that information went live last week on an internal web site for employees. I can imagine this was a tremendous amount of work given we have studios and locations across the continents, with different labour laws, and a multitude of considerations for every workplace.

One of the things my employer did was take every location and defined a “geographical market pay zone” around it. It’s essentially a border defining an area where compensation for a job is similar within that area, also factoring in things like cost of living and housing to a certain degree. I’ve looked at many of the maps and there is some latitude given to the cost of living for sure. In the above example, the map shows the area for our Vancouver locations, which are clustered close enough to just need one zone.

So what is this zone used for? I’m gonna skip a lot of the little details but this is used for people who are transitioning to some form of remote work going forward. This applies to people who are going to almost exclusively work from home and also people who will now have a hybrid schedule, working from home a few days of the week and also coming into a studio for the rest of the week.

The zone determines if the company deems it necessary to alter your compensation, benefits and even potentially your tax situation, depending on whether or not you will be living inside or outside the zone. If you’ll be living within the zone, as long as you have manager and VP approval for either fully remote or hybrid remote work, nothing about your compensation or benefits change. If you’ll be living outside the zone, depending on where that is, you’ll need approval for that, and then most likely a change to compensation, benefits, and perhaps tax situation.

Looking at the Vancouver area zone, it’s fairly generous. Much of the more populated areas of Vancouver Island are included and even some of the lesser populated too. There are interior coastal regions included like Sechelt and even Powell River by the looks of it. Out east, it goes even as far as Hope. To the north, one may live in places like Whistler and Pemberton without an issue.

From a personal point of view, I’ll be applying for the hybrid model as I don’t think I could go back to working at the studio every single day of the week indefinitely. We’ve been told we have to come up with an agreement with our business unit on what type of schedule will work for an individual. Some roles might require one week on-site and then the next week will be remote, with some form of alternating being used. Other roles might have the same schedule every week but say Mondays and Fridays spent doing remote work.

My preferred schedule, at least initially is to be only at the studio two days a week. I don’t even know if this is possible but I will discuss this with my manager. I think this will be fascinating in the next year or so as people figure out how they want to work in the future. What will teams look like going forward? Which of my co-workers will I only see on Zoom, even when our locations open up again? Exciting time ahead.

FARTY

My family doctor prescribed a stomach acid reducer for me last week. I have been dealing with heartburn and acid reflux for a while now. It’s been manageable for a long time but recently, it got a bit worse and made me feel uncomfortable, especially while I was sleeping.

I have been on this new medication for about three days now. I do feel better with it, especially during the time I am awake. My stomach feels more settled, like there’s less chaos down there. I also burp way less. There is one side effect though. I fart way more and the smell is more intense than usual. To be fair, this is a listed side effect on the documentation that came with my medication, “may cause gas and/or bloating”. I don’t feel bloated but the gas is definitely there.

My doctor says I should take the pill daily but then after a while, I should try to go to every other day. We’ll see how it goes but so far, I feel better, even if I’m farting up a storm.

LOOKING BACK

March is approaching quickly and for a lot of us in North America, that marks the month where we started working from home and where the pandemic began. There have been many times I’ve been thankful I’ve had this blog because it’s a record of what I was dealing with at the time. I’ve gone back to just a few of my posts and I remembered that just as we all transitioned to working from home, my main computer went haywire. It refused to boot into Windows and it would work maybe one out of one hundred attempts. I realized that I couldn’t shut my computer down, so I would just put it to sleep until the morning. It was frustrating to figure out how to get my computer stable enough so I could at least put it to sleep.

Having to deal with that plus the beginning of the pandemic was not that great. I tried many different things during a month or so of troubleshooting. I eventually had to install a new hard drive to fix everything. That was less than a year ago but it seems like ancient history now. I’m guessing that if we’re talking about March 2020 people will either think it seems like it was just yesterday or that it was a million years ago, there is no in between.

As we get into March, I’m going to read more of my posts from a year ago. It will be interesting to see how things have changed.

DISHWASHER

I used my dishwasher for the first time in probably over a year today. I normally hand wash my dishes and then use my dishwasher as a drying rack. I think that’s fairly common amongst Asian folks. The only reason I even used it today was because I was afraid that if I didn’t run it, all the moving parts would get old and rusted from disuse. Just like you have to drive a car once in a while, the dishwasher needed to be test driven.

The dishwasher appeared to finish cleaning without any major problems. Everything sounded fine and everything inside came out clean. I probably shouldn’t wait another year to run it again.

PERSEVERANCE

Last Thursday, NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed safely on the surface of Mars. The feat was a marvel of science, engineering, and technology. It was a reminder that using intelligence, science, and logic can push the envelope of what we as a species can learn, explore, and accomplish. I have been fascinated by space and the human exploration of space since I was a kid and that will never change.

In my opinion, the above video is one of the most important pieces of footage that has ever been recorded. It shows in high-definition, in colour, and at a high frame rate, the actual decent and landing of the Perseverance, shot from multiple angles. When you consider that this happened millions of kilometers from Earth and we are now able to watch this as easily as last night’s hockey highlights, it is simply stunning that this video exists.

I’ve watched this video many times now and I’m just in awe that I am to see the Martian atmosphere catching the parachute, making it ruffle in the wind. That’s actual Martian air making that happen. Then as the rover gets close to the Martian surface, the thrusters kick up a storm of Martian dust. Something that we made on Earth traveled millions of kilometers to Mars and was able to make all that dust swirl around. I remain in awe.

While as amazing as the landing was, there’s more to look forward to. In a few weeks, the helicopter that the rover brought along will attempt the first powered flight on a planet other than Earth. Exciting!

VEGETARIAN

It wasn’t on purpose but in the last few weeks there have been days where at least two of my meals is vegetarian. This sorta happened because I’m just lazy and just didn’t figure out the meat part of the meal. Either I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to add the meat. Instead, leafy green vegetables comprise most of what I’m eating.

This is supposedly healthy, especially if I eat less red meat. Also eating leafy green vegetables on the regular is great for you. There are so drawbacks though. I get pretty hungry quite quickly after these meals. If I go vegetarian for breakfast and lunch, I’m ready for dinner at like 4pm. I guess if I was really committed, I’d ensure I get some vegetable protein mixed in with my breakfast and lunch.

In any case, this is something I’d like to continue doing for a while.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS

My T4 became available online today which meant I could do a rough calculation of income tax return for 2020. I write rough because not all my receipts and forms have been sent to me. For example, my charitable donation receipt isn’t available yet but it’s fairly easy to calculate it down to the correct dollar. I also don’t have all my receipts for the savings account interest I accrued for the year. These amounts are marginal though and won’t swing my return one way or the other too far.

Using some tax software, I discovered that in my current situation, I would owe the government of Canada another $450 or so. I won’t find any more tax credits hiding in my couch anywhere, if anything the accurate calculation might show I owe even more. Since it was easy to do, I ran the calculation again but this time I added in another $5,000 worth of RRSP contributions. This turned an amount owing to a refund of about $1,400. This was good enough for me, I didn’t want to fiddle with the contribution amount too much and I also need to factor in some breathing room, because the numbers aren’t firm yet.

I then went online to contribute another $5,000 to my employer RRSP. There’s still well over a week, almost two weeks until the RRSP deadline at the end of the month, so I can relax now. Once all my official receipts and forms are available, I’ll re-visit my return and enter in the official numbers. I can now complete my return at my leisure.